To start celebrating International Women’s Day – March 8 – a little early this year, let’s take a look at some numbers:
- 40% – the number of businesses owned by women in the U.S
- 3 million – the total number of female-owned businesses in the country.
- 114% – the increase in the number of women entrepreneurs compared to 20 years ago.
- $1.8 trillion – the amount of money women-owned businesses in the U.S. generate each year.
- 64% – the number of women-owned businesses that were started by women of color in 2019.
Got to say, these numbers are heartening. Belonging to the female tribe has always felt like a badge of honor, but these numbers make it hit differently, right? It feels good to share in the glow of our sisters’ success.
But as empowering as these numbers are, women in business still have a long way to go. According to World Bank data, only 1 in 3 businesses are owned by women, men still feel more encouraged and better prepared to start and expand a business than women, and when it comes to funding, VCs still consider men-owned businesses a better investment opportunity.
In such a landscape, it is almost natural for a woman entrepreneur to second-guess herself, not pursue her dreams with enough passion, or even feel dejected. So,we are doing our bit to make this journey smoother and more encouraging, here are ten leadership tips for women to succeed in their businesses.
1. Fight Imposter Syndrome
It’s something that all of us fight with – men and women. But it hits women and women of color harder than any other demographic. BBC did a great insightful piece on this subject to understand why and here’s the gist of it: lack of role models who look like us or share a similar background as us can make us feel like imposters when we start achieving significance in our professional lives.
To fight this, recognize when you start having imposter thoughts, and consciously separate feeling from fact. Be rational in your evaluation of a decision you’ve just made. Just because it sounds stupid doesn’t mean it is.
2. Build Your Personal Brand
The iPhone was always going to be a big hit – it was a revolutionary invention and a technological leap. But you’ve got to admit that the larger-than-life persona of Steve Jobs helped. He made Apple attractive, cool, and awesome. His brand and persona was so effective that Apple still carries the legacy even when Jobs is gone.
To make your business the stuff of legends, you’ve got to work on establishing your personal brand. Create your own business logo, a separate website, and different social media accounts. Having a separate business brand identity from your personals will open more doors for you. It’ll allow you to launch new products, new businesses, and new brands – all under the single, unified umbrella of the brand ‘you’.
3. Ask for What You Need
Advice. Funding. Contacts. Help. Whatever you need, don’t be afraid to ask. Remember, if it were a man in your position, nobody would expect them to know all the answers. So don’t assume that you have to know and do everything yourself. Learn to delegate, brainstorm, or simply outright ask for help. Others will respect you more of it and other women entrepreneurs will also feel more confident doing it.
4. Empower Others
It’s seldom that we have to forge an entirely new path for ourselves from the scratch. It’s always more likely that someone in some capacity and to some extent was here before us and their experiences and lessons empower us and help us continue.
So, share this power, don’t hoard it. To empower those around you, give credit freely. Trust people’s talents and assign projects and tasks where they can showcase their qualities. Be gracious in accepting your mistakes and the mistakes of others. Share what you have learned, give advice, and prepare others to take your place. Only when there is someone to replace you in your current role can you attempt to explore the unknown and find new heights.
5. Always Keep Learning
A thirst for education and to learn new things is what makes a leader. The urge to better yourself and the circumstances around you, the desire to create a new world, all of it stems from learning ‘what could be’. So, to become a formidable leader in your field, don’t let your thirst for learning die.
Learn new skills. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from the mistakes of others. Learn from teachers, books, strangers, colleagues, and experts. Learn every chance you get.
6. Develop a Thick Skin Without Giving Up Femininity
Lack of representation in leadership roles can sometimes make us wonder how we should ‘appear’ when in professional settings. So many people equate leadership traits to the traditional and archaic masculine traits of being brash and aggressive.
However, to command a room and the respect of those in it, you don’t need to give up your feminine touch. Feminine qualities of empathy, kindness, and compassion as well as a communal spirit can make you more of an inspirational leader. It makes people respect you more genuinely, perform better on the tasks assigned by you, and be more willing to grow with you.
An inspiring leader attracts the best people, the best ideas, and the best resources.
7. Learn to Say No
Now, when we are talking about embracing your feminine traits, it must be mentioned which trait you must leave behind when you assume the CEO’s office. That trait is pliability. So many young girls are brought up with the mindset of always building a compromise and not being confrontational, even at great cost to themselves.
But as a leader, you’ll have to learn to pick your battles. So, choose the discomfort of offending people and learn to say no. No to unrealistic expectations, demanding work hours that don’t let you work on your own business, no to that inner voice that tells you it’s boastful to own and promote your accomplishments. Say no and set yourself free to walk new paths.
8. Embrace the Option B
Somebody said something to me the other day and it was a really simple thing but it made me think. He said, “Maybe failure isn’t such a bad thing; maybe it isn’t the monster the world would have you believe.”
When you get to the core of it, failure is not a thing. You either win or you learn. But what you learn eventually helps you to win. As a leader, every setback allows you to learn and pivot. Every time you pivot, you learn a new way to do your job. So, continue embracing option B, or C, or even D. Remember, the alphabet has a lot more letters from where these came from. So, keep hustling.
9. Keep Networking
To establish yourself as a leader and to build a large business, you need contacts. Close connections with others in the industry and knowing the hidden doorways will help you go a long way. Learn to connect and network with people. Collaborate and do projects together. Attend events, conferences, and meetings as if your life depends on it, because your success certainly does.
10. Stay Confident & Committed
Anyone who starts a business has a certain level of confidence in them. But as a women business owner, you need to have that confidence tenfold if you want to enjoy the status of a leader. Part of that confidence comes from having faith in your abilities. Hard work, resilience, and commitment to your dreams make this confidence stronger.
Remember that women start businesses and there is something in them that makes their businesses more profitable than men’s. So, revel in that and let it become your calling card to success.
These are great times for women to be in leadership roles, but the path to success is still fraught with limitations and restrictions. Investing in leadership qualities can help women entrepreneurs venture to great heights. Letting go of self-doubt, owning your achievements, and trying to empower those around you can have decisive effects.